Newsletter No 5 from the Covid-19 District Emergency Committee 1/05/20
NZ has now moved to a level 3 Alert. We are still unable to hold Masonic meetings but government guidelines do allow our family bubble to be extended. Lodges continue to hold virtual e-meetings and they are growing in both social and educational value. The work of the Lodge Almoner and the District Welfare teams continue to produce amazing and often heartfelt outcomes.
Creative discussions are occurring within lodges and between Masters as how we can use different electronic programmes in the future. While nothing is better than face-to-face communications, virtual e-programmes allow for better time balance between home and lodge life. Time balance is an increasing issue for younger brethren and this has been very clearly expressed by them in a number of forums. Equally the generation gap of how we communicate in this changing world has also been brought to the fore. While most of us have mobile phones and most use emails, the amount of time between checking our email platform or our use of social medium varies greatly between Masonic generations. There is clearly not one common communication tool used by all of our brethren. This means our presumptions that a Lodges or District email reaches and is read in a timely manner by all members is frequently not the reality.
Recently The Eden Lodge held a virtual ANZAC service which was both moving and respectful. This virtual meeting involved combining two technologies: Zoom and Skype with the Lodges honour board and flags between (See the article below how this was achieved)
Our younger members continue to expand the future possibilities of how the District conducts its business and how it communicates with all brethren. We have some very talented, thoughtful brethren within the District. This balanced with the wisdom and experience of older Masons means we can quietly continue to evolve. We are learning so many lessons throughout this period and are accordingly rethinking how the District works, communicates and relates with Lodges and our membership.
Take care and look after each other,
Q & A from UGLE: re District Meetings
When does the appointment of Grand Lodge appointments and promotions take effect?
It has been agreed that the Grand Officers who were due to be invested at the Annual
Investiture will assume their new ranks on 29 April 2020. Later making their appointments and promotions effective from the date on which the annual meeting would have been held.
2. What is the minimum number to hold a District meeting?
There is no ruling of which I am aware as to the necessary quorum. It should therefore be
presumed that five Brethren required for a meeting of a Private Lodge will be sufficient.
Assisting Brethren in Need - Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth
by Wor. Bro Barry (and Gill) Holland
You may be aware that a small 'task force' was created by the DGM designate, under the authority of our District Grand Master, to be available to deal with contact from any brethren or families who may need assistance whilst in NZ during lockdown, or to respond to requests from Masonic sources abroad to provide any help in NZ.
During the first five weeks of lockdown level 4 we had a number of enquiries in relation to helping Freemasons or friends/relatives of Freemasons from other countries that were stranded in Aotearoa over that period. In addition there were lines of communication opened with the other three Constitutions in both the North and South Islands, to whom we had extended an offer to utilise our services should they be required.
Of note was that we were contacted by a Buckinghamshire (UK) mason, whose cousin, a nurse from the UK was stranded somewhere in NZ and with whom contact had been lost! Although this technically became an issue for the South Island, having established that the individual was likely to be in or around Christchurch; through open lines of communication we agreed to 'handle' the issue. We were able to trace the motel in Christchurch in which she had taken temporary refuge and made contact. Emma it transpired was in fine health and waiting to hear when a flight returning her to the UK was going to become available. We kept in contact with her until she was given safe passage to Christchurch airport where she successfully boarded a flight to return to the UK. We know she arrived safely as the brother who had originally raised the issue from the UK sent us a very appreciative email.
Most recently we received an email from a member of the New Zealand Constitution, who had been contacted on Facebook, allegedly by a South African Lodge member, advising him that a brother from South Africa was stranded in Auckland and in need of help! The NZ Mason contacted his DGM who advised that he should utilise our services to assist. The information was sketchy to say the least; we didn't even have a name for the brother! Bearing in mind this was after four weeks of Level 4 lockdown and given the medium through which contact was initiated, it was necessary to proceed with caution as the original message stated he was in financial difficulty and in need of funds!
Our initial enquires raised further doubts when no record of his English Constitution Lodge in South Africa could be found at the United Grand Lodge of England in Great Queen Street! Without going into the specifics of our actions, the bona fides of the Lodge in question were established and details of the Secretary confirmed. Using various sources of information we were able to obtain a mobile number for the South African brother (on which it subsequently proved we were unable to make contact) and a mobile number for his wife. Eventually we were able to get an answer on his wife's mobile phone and I was able to speak with the brother direct. All necessary information was confirmed. The brother, his wife and son were in temporary accommodation in Auckland, stranded due to no flights being available for them to return to SA, with funds running out. The story has a happy ending as, at the time of writing, the family had secured additional temporary accommodation until their return flight to SA, which departs in 24 hours’ time. I have maintained contact with the brother who has sent a very nice text message thanking DGLNINZ for their care and assistance.
We shall continue to be available throughout level 3 lockdown and beyond to help any brother or relative or friend stranded in NZ, who normally reside elsewhere in the world and will respond to requests as quickly as possible from any Masonic source outside of New Zealand and provide whatever relief and assistance we can.
24 HOUR HAND SANITISERS NOW AVAILABLE
by V. Wor. Bro Farouk Khan
As you are aware, the District purchased and distributed Clini-X dispensers to your Lodge for distribution to your Lodge members. (One Lodge has not yet picked up its allocation of dispensers). One 50ml dispenser or 2x30ml dispensers have been provided for each brother. Clini-X is a very high-grade hand sanitiser which provides protection for up to 24 hours against bacteria and viruses. It does so by bonding to the skin and killing bacteria and destroying viruses and cannot be removed even by washing. When the natural process of dead skin shedding takes place, the sanitiser is then shed with it. The dispensers provided will provide one person 24 hour protection with up to two months daily usage (or one month for a couple).
We have been fortunate to obtain an additional supply of these dispensers and these can be purchased through the DG Sec for you and your families. The cost of each 50ml dispenser is $12 (Inc. GST). (Plus postage if not collected from Ellerslie) Please reply indicating the number of dispensers you wish to purchase. You will then receive an email with an invoice and the District account number for payment. Please reply to Farouk Khan ()
The Next Tessellated Tales Issue
by Wor. Bro. Russell Chilton
The next issue of the Tessellated Tales is a continuation of the previous issue in the vein of our connection to the military and with ANZAC being commemorated recently. We also reflect on the Masters of Lodges who are continuing into another year during suspension. All mixed with news and humour.
Opotiki / Gisborne Annual Masonic trip
by Wor. Bro. Graham (and Pauline) Abbott.
These are strange times with Covid-19 amongst us and preventing us from attending our lodges to enjoy what we like doing. We are staying at home in our own little bubble catching up with those jobs around the house that our wives and partners have been asking us to do for ages.
I have read about six novels since it started but also my Emulation ritual to make sure that I am ready for our next lodge meeting.
Its times like this that we think of our smaller lodges in faraway rural places and wondering how they are coping.
We don’t know when we will be attending our next lodge meeting and seeing our other family.
Let me take you on a special visit that Pauline and I make every year to see our friends in the Opotiki and Gisborne area that we have been doing for the last 36 years.
The installation of the Opotiki Lodge No 1930 always meet on the Saturday before Labour Day holiday weekend when the weather is hot and the scenery as always is magnificent. This year it will be on the 17th October 2020 commencing at about 2pm.
The ladies attending will be entertained by the ladies of the Opotiki brethren and usually have something interesting to do while we are doing our work inside the lodge. After the meeting the refectory is held at the lodge rooms with a very nice meal and then we all finish for the day with the usual invitation to return the following morning for a cooked breakfast which will include whitebait fritters if Jeff Van Stone has been successful on his fishing trip the previous week, before winding our way to Gisborne.
There are two ways of going to Gisborne and the way Pauline and I get there is to travel around the coast and stopping at those little settlements and churches which have so much history of days gone by on the East Coast. If you have not done this trip before which takes about 4 hours take it from me you will not be disappointed.
The other way is going through the gorge which will take about two hours.
On arrival at Gisborne we book into our accommodation and that night meet up at the Fisherman’s Club for dinner with our brethren and their wives and partners from the Turanganui Lodge No 1480. This is a very enjoyable night catching up with what has been happening over the last 12 months.
On Monday Turanganui Lodge usually met at 7pm and the ladies went out to a restaurant for dinner but last year they changed the format. This year the Installation will commence at 2pm after which there will be a refectory at the lodge rooms and that night we will all go to a nearby restaurant for dinner.
Before we finish the evening we will say our farewells to all our friends and on the Tuesday morning will wend our way back home talking about the wonderful times we had at Opotiki and Gisborne and promising ourselves we will do the trip next year.
This year it is Pauline and my turn to organise this trip with our good friends Jeff and Julie Vanstone so if you would like to come with us please contact us with the numbers and the accommodation you require so that we can ensure that everything is OK.
Graham 021 0274 1214, Pauline 021 758 417, Julie and Jeff 09 239 3926.
The work of the District Grand Almoner
by W. Bro. Rodger Johnstone
During this Covid-19 crisis I have had the privilege of speaking to many brethren and some of their family members throughout the lodges in our District. It has been most enlightening. I have spoken with Entered Apprentices and Fellowcrafts who have only been in the craft a few months and other brethren; right up to those who have been members over sixty years and some rapidly approaching their one hundredth birthday. Without exception they have all been stoic in dealing with the restrictions of this emergency.
Generally speaking, I have found that those living in a rural setting, especially those engaged in farming or horticulture, have not found any great change in their everyday lives other than in their regular weekly or fortnightly trips to town. The farms still need them regularly attending to the upkeep which is normally done mostly in isolation. As it is, the urban dwellers amongst us have noticed the biggest changes. Having to adapt to working from home has tended to bring out the inventiveness in people forced to adjust to working in the domestic setting especially when the household includes children. The use of platforms such as Zoom has made many realise the savings in both time and money which can be made in holding virtual meetings. This will no doubt be echoed in practises when this is over.
Generally, those in both sectors have been taking advantage of the situation to decorate, repair, do minor alterations, spring (well autumn) clean etcetera. There are also a lot of noses being pointed at little blue and red books. Overall, everyone is meeting our restrictions with a good grace and accepting it for the necessity it is.
For me it has been very satisfying speaking to brethren and finding more out about those I already know and chatting with those I have never met. We have a lot of wonderful characters out there. The support and interest in their welfare given by the Lodges and District has been greatly appreciated.
One thing that has come to light which needs to be addressed is the importance of communication from the brethren to their Lodge Secretaries. On the membership lists provided to me by the Secretaries there are many dozens of discrepancies in phone numbers especially landlines which have been dispensed with. Brethren, the District has been unable to source crystal balls to issue to those hard working officers so please, if any of your contact details have changed in the last couple of years, check that your Secretary has been given your updated details.
A very large proportion of our membership is in the age group when we qualify for the government super-annuity and, as such, are deemed to be in the ‘at risk’ category. Those of us in that age bracket should have received today the latest Super Seniors newsletter from the Ministry of Social Development. This has been issued specifically in regard to the present national emergency situation. I urge you to give it a good read and not to dismiss it as ‘spam’. There is a lot of very useful information in it to assist us all. If for some reason you have not received it the following is the link to it. For the latest newsletter on May 1st
For day to day normal use, if you have not already done so, I suggest that you bookmark the Ministry’s website as it is a mine of useful information regarding welfare, financial and other assistance which are available.
Super Seniors website http://www.superseniors.msd.govt.nz/index.html
Thank you all for the kind reception you have given to me and my assistant, W Bro Ken Perkinson, in our calls. Keep pulling together and we will get through this.
How we can assist our District Grand Almoner work
by Wor. Bro. Michael Chopping
Team leader of the District Welfare group
Brethren our masonic journey has been suspended for a month already, and there are strong prospects of further delays before we can get back to our masonic fraternity, and companionship. It is however a fact brethren that the new normal will be very different. While we make that transition it is also a fact that we have brethren and families in our District who have lost jobs and income.
The Covid-19 Emergency Committee in conjunction with the District Grand Almoner have agreed on an initiative to encourage Brethren to donate the money which they would normally have spent on refectory meetings, to either their own lodge Almoner or to the District Grand Almoner to further assist brethren in need . We all generally spend at least $15 at each Lodge meetings on refectory.
If it is within your means to donate a similar sum of money to provide the District Grand Almoner or your Lodge Almoner with further flexibility in providing instant financial support to some very vulnerable brethren in situations never previously contemplated, it will be greatly appreciated.
All applications for assistance will be handled discretely and confidentially. These donations will be only used to assist masons or their families within our District.
Please brethren – if you can afford it donate your refectory money and wish to assist the District Grand Almoner in his work please use the following bank account
“It will be thankfully received and faithfully applied“
Bank Account number: 03-0243-0157416-00
Code: CV19 donate
Any monies raised by this initiative and not utilised will be donated to the District Charitable trust fund.
The Eden Lodges Electronic ANZAC Commemoration Service -How to Combine two electronic mediums – Skype and Zoom
by Bro Mark de Jesus
How the Eden Lodge integrated Skype and Zoom in our last meeting.
There is a Skype-zoom plug in, which can be downloaded and installed. However, this plug-in only works, and is available for both paid Skype and Zoom Business and Educational subscription plans. Since none of us are subscribers to these paid services, we had to do of a workaround. This involves someone in the meeting logged in to both Skype and Zoom and then using the share screen function in both Apps so that participants of both can see and hear each other.
In our meeting, we shared my desktop with everyone and arranged the windows of both apps so that people can see each other's faces. Meeting participants of both apps were able to hear each other because the computer's mic is in close proximity to the speakers. The mic is so sensitive that it could even hear Andrew munching on his chips.
I am using a MacBook though I believe that this would also work in any Windows-based laptop or desktop. Here's a step by step description of how it was done:
1. Open both Skype and Zoom (there will be 2 application windows open)
2. Host the meeting on Zoom and then send the meeting link to participants. - In our case I just copied and pasted the meeting invite to our What's App chat so that the brethren would easily see it. Clicking on the meeting invite on What's App automatically takes them to the Zoom meeting room.
2. Log-in to the Skype meeting.- People in both meeting rooms will now be able to hear each other with you acting as their bridge. The Skype session for our meeting was hosted by Andrew.
3. On the Zoom App, click on 'Share' at the bottom of the page and then select 'Desktop' This should enable the zoom participants to see the Skype users.
4 On the Skype App, select the screen sharing button and then also select 'Desktop'. This should then enable Skype users to see the Zoom users.
5. Arrange both Skype and Zoom windows by clicking and dragging them on your Desktop. In my case, I actually changed my Desktop wallpaper to the Eden Lodge Honour Roll and then hid my desktop icons to make it look like an official Eden Lodge Meeting Hall.
A District Quiz Night by Wor Bro Russell Chilton
Brethren, the District is arranging a quiz for Lodges to compete against other Lodges in groups until a winner is found. This will be via the Zoom platform so we can have as many Brethren competing as possible. Managing the teams and the conferring within is down to you as the Quiz Master will only accept answers from the Lodge representative in a set time, so smaller teams will not be disadvantaged.
Contact W. Bro Chilton on firstname.lastname@example.org to register your Lodge by the end of the week as we are looking to hold the first heats next week.
If the pride of your Lodge winning isn’t enough, the District will be presenting a bottle of whiskey to the winner….
Sitting Masters online meetup 31 July 2020
by Wor. Bro Michael James Remuera Lodge 1710
The sitting Masters of the North Island NZ had a Zoom meetup on Thursday evening to share how the respective Lodges were going. Warren Weir the District Grand Master designate was also in attendance.
Generally, Lodges are keeping in contact with their members and dealing with any issues as they arise. As a secondary support layer, the District Almoner (Roger Johnstone) has also been busy keeping in touch with members.
One of the questions on all of the Masters’ minds was when Lodges can resume meetings. Warren said we would be following advice from Government and taking a conservative approach since a majority of our members are in the high-risk category being over 65 years old. When the transition from Level 3 to Level 2 has been explained by Government we will be in a better position to speculate on the resumption of Lodge meetings. Concern was expressed about candidates waiting for initiations. At this time, we cannot proceed with initiations however many Lodges have been having online social meetups and inviting their candidates to take part, so they feel part of the team.
Warren also explained that his installation as District Grand Master has been put on hold for the time being due to lockdown and meeting restrictions. Grand Lodge has given a dispensation for our current District Grand Master Brian Westhead to continue as District Grand Master until such time as Warren can be installed in an appropriate manner.
We had a lengthy discussion on charity and the wide range of difficulties some members were experiencing at this time. Lodges and the District have been attending to people’s needs on a case by case basis. One very interesting but probably self-evident point came to light that in normal circumstances we focus on meetings and ritual which talks about charity, however now that we find ourselves in a time of no meetings, there is a great need and opportunity to walk the talk rather than talk the talk when it comes to charity. All the Masters were in agreement that now was the time to let our charitable nature and intentions shine.
Other Messages from different parts our Masonic World;
From the Province of Durham:
Reflections from the Provincial Grand Master, Grand Superintendent.
By V. Wor Bro. John Arthur
I do not think I have ever had so much time to reflect on all sorts of subjects. The current and alarming situation we are all involved in will, I am sure, eventually become another memory that we may wish to forget but probably never will.
I would like say how proud I am of the members of our Province who are working on the front line in the NHS, the Care sector, emergency and support services, key employment areas, and keeping deliveries going, as well as those supporting their more vulnerable family members, friends and neighbours. I congratulate those of you who have joined the 750,000+ citizens that have applied to be volunteers.
Many of you will be staying at home, self-isolating or social distancing in accordance with government guidance and each and every one of you are considering the well-being of the community in which you live.
I am not surprised that members of our Province have reacted in this way. The basic teaching of Freemasonry is that care for our fellow man is a fundamental part of who we are. Along with many others I have been concerned that we live in a rapidly changing world and that Freemasonry has been slow to adapt to that world with the result that some of the population do not understand what we are about, what we do and what we stand for.
The world will definitely be a different place after all this is over and if the image of Freemasonry does not change, then the ‘disconnect’ with the general population will only increase. The task for us all is reflect on the way we have done things in the past, question whether “doing what we have always done” is valid or appropriate in this changing world.
We have more than 300 years of tradition behind us and this should not be forgotten, but we must ask ourselves whether some of our meetings, with their reference to ‘Secrets’, will ever result in us being truly accepted as part of a society that demands transparency.
The most encouraging thing I have noticed recently is the speed at which a lot of our members have adapted behaviour and found ways of keeping in touch, whether it be WhatsApp, Facetime, Zoom and other virtual meeting software. More importantly the distinct increase in real contact with our less fortunate Brethren whose movements are restricted through age or ill health.
It is right that we prepare ourselves for the changes that may come when the present difficulties are behind us.
Please use all of the communication channels to keep in touch with those who are in need or feeling isolated. A quote I heard recently “We are all Almoners (carers)” How right this is. Maybe something good will eventually come out of this unprecedented crisis.
Tell people who we are and remind everyone what we stand for.
INTEGRITY, FRIENDSHIP, RESPECT and CHARITY
From the Wiltshire Freemasons:
The team at Southmead Accident & Emergency Department said a huge THANK YOU to Alison Bates and the Freemasons meeting in Marlborough, Wiltshire. Essentials and 'goodies' do make a difference.
From the Provincial Grand Lodge of Yorkshire and East Ridings
A passing thought, can we do something similar as this for the District of the North Island? Do our “younger” like the concept?